Faces of Ballarat: Tim Bone

He's the Prince Harry lookalike whose cooking prowess and cheeky smile won over Australia on the 2019 season of MasterChef.

We spoke to Ballarat's very own Tim Bone about his teaching career, his famous toasties and the Ballarat restaurant giving Melbourne's Chin Chin and Lucy Liu a run for their money.

What's your Ballarat story?
"I moved to Ballarat in 2005 to attend the University of Ballarat (now Fed Uni) to study teaching. I lived on campus at the uni, having moved away from my home town of Nhill in western Victoria to the 'big smoke'. I loved my time living on campus, making life-long friends and sometimes having too much fun and not studying as much as I should (ha ha!) but it was a great life experience."

"After uni, I started working at Yuille Park Community College as an integration aide, working one-on-one with students with special needs. I also ran after-school programs for underprivileged students, giving them the chance to have fun and just be kids. In 2016, I took over the role of kitchen/garden co-ordinator, which was my dream role as I had always had a passion for food and cooking. In this role, I taught students how to grow ingredients in the school vegetable garden and how to cook simple, healthy dishes they could make at home with their families. It was a very rewarding role because I got to teach students where food actually comes from and how healthy food doesn't have to be bland or yucky."

What do you love most about Ballarat?
"Ballarat is a beautiful city that I have fallen in love with more and more over the years. I love the historic buildings, especially on Lydiard Street. I love Lake Wendouree, the Botanical Gardens and the variety of bushland and walking tracks where we love to walk our dog, Harry. My wife Abbey and I have always loved visiting the farmers' markets, especially the Ballarat Farmers Market (at Lake Wendouree), the Bridge Mall Farmers Market and the Brown Hill Market and I'm lucky enough to be able to sell my toasties at these markets now."
 
"We are very lucky in Ballarat to have so many beautiful local producers and the markets are a great place for them to showcase their quality products. Ballarat's calendar is full of great events such as the Begonia Festival, SpringFest, the Ballarat Beer Festival, Plate Up Ballarat and, most recently, Spilt Milk, which really put Ballarat on the map as a place to showcase musical talent." 
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Tim's Toasties
How would you describe your MasterChef experience?
"MasterChef was an amazing experience. It was very stressful and high pressure at times but I was able to learn so much, not just about cooking but what I am capable of. I basically met all of my food idols like Curtis Stone, Nigella Lawson and Maggie Beer, which were real 'pinch me' moments. I also got to cook in some amazing places like Hanging Rock, Rottnest Island and Margaret River plus visit some incredible restaurants such as Wildflower in Perth. My favourite challenge was cooking for the farmers and truck drivers who had been affected by the drought in Gippsland. It was nice to give them a good feed – it was the least we could do."
 
"I grew a lot as a cook throughout the show, becoming more confident in cooking desserts, which were certainly my weakness previously. To win my way back into the competition on a second chance cook-off and then come fourth is something I'm very proud of. The experience has given me the opportunity to work in the food industry every day and start up my own business, Tim's Toasties." 
 
Where are your favourite places to eat and drink in Ballarat?
"The food scene in Ballarat is booming – it's great to see so many new cafes and restaurants popping up. We are spoilt for choice these days and are becoming a food destination in our own right. My favourite cafes would have to be the Hydrant Food Hall, Higher Society and Drive Cafe. I also love 1816 Bakehouse – they do a great sausage roll, almond croissant and coffee."
 
"In terms of restaurants, Moon and Mountain would have to be my favourite. This Asian fusion venue blows my mind every time I go there and, in my opinion, gives Melbourne's Chin Chin and Lucy Liu a run for their money. Abbey and I love our pizza and we can never go past a wood-fired pizza from The Forge.
 
"If you're looking for the best souvlaki in Ballarat, you can't go past The Charcoal Pit. My favourite place to have a cheeky drink would have to be Mitchell Harris Wine Bar. Their service and atmosphere is second to none and their sparkling Sabre goes down a treat. I also love my craft beer so I'm a regular at Hop Temple and The Mallow, which both showcase some amazing craft beers from local and beyond."
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Which local ingredients do you like to showcase in your famous toasties?
"The bread I use comes from 1816 Bakehouse in Armstrong Street North. The owner Chappy and the team are so passionate about producing the highest quality bread and pastries they can and my toasties wouldn't be the same without their sourdough bread. A lot of the small goods I use – bacon, ham, sausages and pastrami – are from Salt Kitchen Charcuterie. Mick's bacon is the best I've ever tasted.
 
"When sourcing meats such as lamb and pork, I like to support local butchers Sinclair Meats and Midvale Quality Meats. The quality is always of such a high standard.
 
"I get my fresh produce from Ballarat's Better Choice green grocer, Wilsons Fruit & Vegetables. It is a friendly, family-run business which is passionate about supplying the best quality produce to Ballarat locals. They also give so much back to the community."
 
Can you let us in on Ballarat's best kept secret?
"Great question! In my opinion, everybody needs to know about 9S, the little Chinese restaurant on Sturt Street. It's a small, humble restaurant that serves up delicious, authentic Chinese cuisine. I highly recommend the Szechuan chicken."
 
And, finally, what next for Tim Bone?
"In 2020, I will continue to build Tim's Toasties at markets and events. I will also be looking to do some toastie nights at The North Star Hotel when it opens and possibly some other venues over the next few months."
 
"I am also an ambassador for the charity Keeley's Cause, which raises money to buy iPads for students with autism. We have a charity lunch coming up for that."
 
"I'd love to open my own hole-in-the-wall selling my toasties in the future, that's the dream. At the moment, I'm enjoying the farmers' markets and events and just want to start small and build from there."